Archive for July, 2016

Wine Tasting Along the California Coast: June 12 – July 1, 2016

Philip J. Terhorst, 7/1/16

Leaving Home…

Saturday, June 11, 2016, dawned misty and overcast, just like it always does in June. After a few hours of final packing we were ready to go:


We were heading to Santa Barbara for our rendezvous with 4 other intrepid Airstream couples to embark on 3 weeks of wine tasting along the California coast. After almost 6 hours of stop and go traffic from Irvine all the way past Santa Barbara we arrived at El Capitan State Beach and our campground – Ocean Mesa RV Resort. The next day we were joined by Steve and Yoshi Deiwert (NorCal Unit), John and Darlene Lintz (El Camino Unit), David and Mary Lawson (Central Coast California Unit), and our very own Steve and Jane Carmichael (South Coast California Unit). After we were set up, we had introductions all around and enjoyed the first of many “happy hours” together.

Santa Barbara… June 13

Our first day of wine tasting and sightseeing was “on your own”. Some of us went to the “Funk Zone” and “The Mill”, while others went to the pier. Wines we tasted were not remarkable, but we had a fine time strolling the beautiful City. We met up for a late lunch at Cold Spring Tavern, located, coincidentally, adjacent to the Cold Spring Bridge, in San Marcos Pass. This is an old stage coach stop that serves fine lunches and dinners in a very rustic atmosphere.



This was a fun outing and a unique setting that we all enjoyed. Back at the campground we enjoyed another shared “happy hours” and readied our rigs for an early departure the next morning.

Los Olivos… June 14

Our next stop was unique in that we were “boondocking” or “dry camping” in the town of Los Olivos, just off the main street in an overflow parking lot. This enabled us to walk the town and choose from the 51 tasting rooms. At noon we all enjoyed Saarloos & Sons for wine tasting and listening to Keith Saarloos tell the story of their family vineyards and wine. Other tasting rooms visited were E11evin, Stolpman, Carrhart, and the Firestone Brewery. For dinner we all walked over to The Los Olivos Wine Merchant and Café (made famous in the Sideways movie) for a great dinner. It was nice to be able to enjoy the day without having to drive, and to have the Airstreams nearby to stop off for a bite of food or a nap between tastings. While the weather was quite warm, it got quite cool in the evening, so sleeping without AC was no problem.


We thank the Saarloos family for allowing us to park on their property…

Buellton… June 15-17

Next morning we departed Los Olivos for a short drive to Flying Flags RV Resort in Buellton. This is a very nice campground with excellent facilities. It was here that we learned about the Scherpa Fire outside Santa Barbara. The Ocean Mesa campground, along with three other campgrounds were closed and evacuated. The firefighters made their stand at the edges of the campgrounds so they were spared, but we were glad we had left the day before…

Using Flying Flags as a base, we were able to visit several wineries and even 2 distilleries, either as a group or “on our own”. The most notable:
Tantara: I have been buying Tantara wine as long as they have been in the Santa Ynez Valley, so we were able to arrange a private tasting at the Owner’s house… An added benefit: The wines were fabulous!


Rusack: This tasting room has one of the nicest views in the valley. We picked up sandwiches at Panino In Los Olivos, had our tasting at Rusack, then adjourned with our wine purchases to the deck where we enjoyed Rusack wine, Panino sandwiches, and a great view!



Other tasting rooms visited were Zaca Mesa, Alma Rosa, Foxen, Mosby, plus Ascendant Spirits (Breaker Bourbon) and Brothers Spirits. A side trip to the tiny town of Los Alamos allowed some wine tasting and antique shopping. We also visited the Farmers’ Market in Solvang to purchase food for the first potluck dinner. We even managed to have a few aebelskivers as dessert!

San Luis Obispo County… June 18-21

On our way to Avilla Beach KOA we drove into an industrial area of Santa Maria for another private tasting. Tantara has their facilities here, as do many other wineries that do not own their own facilities. Next door to Tantara are Challen Winery and Cotiere Wines. While we had already tasted Tantara, we found out that Challen Cates is the daughter of the founder and former owner of Tantara, Bill Cates. In addition, the same winemaker, Kevin Law, makes the wine for all three places, and they even use grapes from some of the same vineyards. Both Cotiere and Challen wines were very good, and many of us left with lighter wallets…


Upon our arrival at the campground in Avilla Beach we discovered that on this very day the Avilla Beach Mac-N-Cheese-Fest was underway. Since none of us felt we could possibly eat $75 worth of Mac-N-Cheese we did not attend; however, we will revisit this topic later in the trip…

Highlights of the San Luis Obispo County wine region:

Dinner at Jocko’s: Santa Maria is famous for its oak-fired grilled tri-tips and other steaks. Jocko’s is quite an institution in the little town of Nipomo. It is basically a dive bar with two dining rooms featuring Costco tables and folding chairs, something you might find in a church social hall. But they do have a giant oak fired grill out back manned by expert grillers. We all had great meals and we all took leftovers home with us. An enjoyable time was had by all!


Wine tasting: We visited Edna Valley Winery, Tesoro Estate Wines, Kynsi, Talley Vineyards, Cayucas Cellars, and Chamisal, where we enjoyed a picnic lunch on their patio from High Street Deli in San Luis Obispo.

Sightseeing: Side trips to the quaint towns of Morro Bay, Cayucas, Arroyo Grande, and Pismo Beach, plus a stop for lunch at Sidecar in San Luis Obispo (much changed from when I attended school here 45 years ago…) gave us a nice feel for the area.

Paso Robles… June 22-25

After departing Avilla Beach the caravan traveled further north, to Paso Robles. Here a special treat awaited us. We drove up to Record Family Wines and parked our Airstreams in the vineyards! (Well, some of us did. Due to an unseasonably hot week (106 degrees) some of the group opted to go to Wine Country RV Resort so that their dogs and cats would be more comfortable.)

We spent the afternoon trying to avoid the heat by going wine tasting. Adelaida and Opolo are both beautiful places, and we also enjoyed a light lunch at Opolo. (West side wineries have figured out that if customers have to go back to downtown Paso Robles for lunch they may never return, so many wineries in this remote area offer different food options.)

Arriving back at Record Family Wines in the late afternoon, we were joined by Nora Stapleton and her friend Bruce (South Coast California Unit) for the balance of the caravan.

The group (now twelve of us) gathered in the “barn” and were joined by several members of the Record family, We enjoyed a tasting of their limited production wines, then, wine glass in hand, we loaded ourselves onto a hay wagon pulled by a tractor (driven by the owner, Randy Record) for a tour of the 75 acres of vineyards.




Following the hayride through the vineyards we were treated to hors d’oeuvres, more wine, and a BBQ dinner consisting of tri-tip, salad, grilled bread, vegetable side dishes, and Grandma Record’s blackberry cobbler for dessert. We give a huge “thank you” to the Record family for showing us this great hospitality!


Next morning, after a peaceful sleep in the vineyards, we re-joined the others at Wine Country RV Resort. This was another day of wine tasting, this time at Cass (including a nice lunch) and Still Water, and a few other places. That evening we had another potluck dinner and recounted our various activities of the day.

Friday we set out again to the Templeton area, along West Hwy 46. Castoro has long been a favorite; then came Niner, where we had a nice lunch in their lovely restaurant adjacent to the tasting room, and Turley, famous for its Zinfandels.

The highlight of this day was another private tasting at Jack Creek Cellars. A few years ago Jack Creek closed its wine club to new members and closed its tasting room, because they wanted to remain small and they were running out of wine! Thus the sign as we pulled up to the gate:


But I pulled some strings and they were waiting for us inside. Again, excellent wines and a fun time being treated as if we were special!


After Jack Creek Cellars, we stopped by Grey Wolff and Barton Wineries for tasting. We will return here tomorrow when KroBar, their distillery, is open…

Friday night was the “last supper” for the full caravan. Deiwerts and Lintzes were leaving us at this point, and Carmichaels were leaving the next day – only Terhorst, Stapleton, and Lawson were continuing on for the final region. We had a nice supper together under the stars between the Airstreams and reminisced over the past two weeks of activities.


On Saturday we visited Calcareous Winery, atop a very high hill on the Westside. Their winery was beautiful, their wines quite good, and their view was spectacular. Lunch was served by Thomas Hill Organics, a renowned restaurant in downtown Paso Robles.


After Calcareous we stopped by KroBar, tasted a few sprits, and ate Mac-N-Cheese at their “Kitchen Window” – it had won the competition at the Mac-N-Cheese-Fest in Avilla Beach the week before!
Paso Robles has their version of Santa Barbara’s “Funk Zone” called Tim City. We did a little tasting (Levo and Benson), but the area is brand new and lacked much activity. (The 106 degree heat didn’t help!)

Monterey County… June 26 to July 1

The longest drive of the caravan (about three hours) brought us to Carmel Valley and the Carmel-By-The-River RV Park. A very small campground at the end of a very long one lane road snaking up the side of a mountain! (I had my doubts for a few moments…) But the facilities are quite nice and the three Airstreams were able to park side-by-side. It was also much cooler here – a nice change.

Our first full day outing was to Carmel Valley Village – another small town chock full of tasting rooms and restaurants. We visited Talbot, Boekenoogen, Bernardas, and Cima Colima. All the Pinot Noirs we tasted from the Santa Lucia Highlands were excellent! Lunch was at Roux Café and supper was a quiet potluck at the Airstreams.


On Tuesday David and Nora drove to Pacific Grove to bike the 17 mile drive. (Bruce had left the night before to fly back home to work…) Phil, Lynda, and Mary (and the dogs) went in to Carmel to briefly stand on the beach (it was 61 degrees at noon in the middle of summer…) We tried three more tasting rooms in Carmel – Scheid, Manzoni, and Wrath. Again, all the Pinot Noirs from the Santa Lucia Highlands were excellent! Wrath even makes a Pinot using grapes from Boekenoogen’s vineyards – I predict a side-by-side tasting coming soon.

On Wednesday we took a long drive to Hollister to buy sandwiches at Victoria’s Italian Deli, then we drove up into the mountains to visit Calera Winery. The owners and winemaker searched for many years to find vineyards with limestone soils and a climate similar to the famed wine region of Burgundy. A special bonus was that Steve and Yoshi joined us, driving from their home in Sarasota. Welcome back! We had a great tasting, (more great Pinot Noirs) and afterwards we toured their caves, where they age their wines in a perfect cool and damp environment.


Then we enjoyed our picnic lunch on the patio overlooking the hills…

Next stop was in Salinas, where we visited the Steinbeck Museum. The exhibits were very interesting to most of us…


Upon our return to the campground we spotted another Airstream. It turned out to be Tim and Rebecca and their kids, on their way to Big Sur from Yosemite!

On our last full day we set off alone to visit Monterey. (David spent the entire day puttering around and repacking his truck…)

We hadn’t been to Monterey in many years, so we just drove through Pacific Grove and strolled Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf. Just a quiet day being tourists…


Our final dinner for the caravan was at Café Rustica in Carmel Valley Village, where we enjoyed some good food and some Boekenoogen Pinot Noir. And an enjoyable time was had by all.



July 27 2016 | Caravans | No Comments »